Rasmussen's Encephalitis

Rasmussen’s encephalitis is a rare, chronic inflammatory neurological disease that usually affects only one hemisphere of the brain.  It usually occurs in children under the age of 10 (more rarely in adolescents and adults), and is characterized by frequent and severe seizures, loss of motor skills and speech, paralysis on one side of the body (hemiparesis), inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and mental deterioration.  Most individuals with Rasmussen’s encephalitis will experience frequent seizures and progressive brain damage in the affected hemisphere of the brain over the course of the first 8 to 12 months, and then enter a phase of permanent, but stable, neurological deficits.  Rasmussen’s encephalitis has features of an autoimmune disease in which immune system cells enter the brain and cause inflammation and damage. Research is ongoing into the causes of this rare disease.


Anti-epileptic drugs are usually not effective in controlling seizures.  Recent studies have shown some success with treatments that suppress or modulate the immune system, in particular those that use corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin, or tacrolimus.  Surgery to control seizures may be performed in later stages of the disease when neurological deficits stabilize.  Surgical procedures, such as functional hemispherectomy and hemispherotomy, may reduce the frequency of seizures and also improve behavior and cognitive abilities.   


The prognosis for individuals with Rasmussen’s encephalitis varies.  Despite the advances in medical treatment, none has yet been shown to halt the progress of the disease in the long term.  The disorder may lead to severe neurological deficits or it may cause only milder impairments.  For some children, surgery decreases seizures.  However, most individuals with Rasmussen’s encephalitis are left with some paralysis, cognitive deficits, and problems with speech.  In some cases, the disease can progress to involve the opposite brain hemisphere. 


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research related to Rasmussen’s encephalitis in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and also supports additional research through grants to major research institutions across the country.  Much of this research focuses on finding better ways to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure progressive neurological disorders, such as Rasmussen’s encephalitis.


Epilepsy Foundation
National charitable organization dedicated to the welfare of people with epilepsy. Works to ensure that people with seizures are able to participate in all life experiences; to improve how people with epilepsy are perceived, accepted and valued in society; and to promote research for a cure. Offers a Legal Defense Program through a fund.

8301 Professional Place East, Suite 200
Landover, MD 20785-7223
Tel: Landover
Fax: 301-577-2684

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
Federation of voluntary health organizations dedicated to helping people with rare "orphan" diseases and assisting the organizations that serve them. Committed to the identification, treatment, and cure of rare disorders through programs of education, advocacy, research, and service.

55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: Danbury
Fax: 203-798-2291

RE Children's Project
National organization devoted to increase awareness regarding Rasmussen's encephalitis (RE) for the primary purpose of supporting scientific research directed towards a cure.

79 Christie Hill Road
Darien, CT 06820
Tel: Darien

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NINDS Disorders is an index of neurological conditions provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This valuable tool offers detailed descriptions, facts on treatment and prognosis, and patient organization contact information for over 500 identified neurological disorders.

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